Write about a Summer love during Quarantine? I pondered over the thought and eventually decided to write my own story.
I hadn't left my house for three weeks because of Quarantine, which was normal. I was a bit of a hermit, and liked it that way.
I decided to redo my home one day, which wasn't unusual—I redecorated fairly often out of boredom, and I hated the feeling of sameness that settled over things that were left in the same place for too long—and I was carrying a painting downstairs of my cabin in the woods that I'd only finished last week when I tripped over a stray paintbrush that I'd left on the step. I plummeted down the stairwell, crashed through my painting with a rip, and screamed as I landed awkwardly on the floor below.
I lay on the cold, wooden floor for quite some time, my back in pain and my mind stunned. I passed out, my head still trapped inside the torn painting.
Looking back on the memory, I don't know why I felt the need to carry it downstairs when it would have looked perfectly fine in the bathroom, but as they say, hindsight's twenty-twenty.
When I awoke, my chest and back ached, and my neck felt as if I had whiplash.
I was stuck—no neighbors, no relatives, nothing. I lived my life of solitude well in my little cabin, and it was coming back to repay me.
I was thirsty, hungry, in pain, and I really, really needed to use the bathroom.
That's when a knock sounded on the door.
I knew that knock—it was the same one I'd heard almost daily for as long as I remembered. The mailman always gave that knock just before leaving a package on my step.
"Wait—" My voice was raspy and dry. I cleared it. "Wait! Help me! Help!"
I yelled for as long as I could until my voice grew rough. I tried to push up, but my back gave out, and horrible pain hammered through my body from my neck down.
A bird caw from outside was the only answer to my cry.
A tentative knock suddenly came from the door. "Hello. . .?"
Hope blossomed within me. "Please! Help! I fell and hurt myself!"
The doorknob turned as the mailman shoved on the door. It squeaked something terrible as it opened, since I'd neglected to oil it. A faint Summer breeze followed him inside.
He was tall, with black hair that was trimmed close to his head, and skin the color of almonds. His dark, cocoa eyes grew wide when he saw my predicament and he froze.
"Are you okay?" His brows furrowed. He spoke with a mild Spanish accent.
I almost shook my head but remembered my neck and grimaced. "I've been better. I think my back's broken."
I covered my face with my hair to hide the gruesome scars that covered half of it from a bad accident I was in a while back—which was the main source of my becoming a hermit. I charged into a fire to save my nephew, only I wasn't successful, and almost lost my own life, but managed to escape with just my scars—and a blind eye.
"What can I do?" He scratched his head with a grimace that matched my own.
I sighed slowly. The movement hurt my chest. "I have a phone. Up these stairs, the first door—"
He shook his head and withdrew a fancy touch-screen, which was very unlike my old flip-screen. He dialed and went quiet for just a second before telling the person on the other side of the line my situation. Shortly after, he hung up and nodded. "They'll be here soon. In the meantime, is there anything I can get you?"
A bathroom would be nice. . . "No, thanks. You've done more than enough. I don't know what I'd do if it wasn't for you."
Shrugging, he leaned against the wall, arms crossed. "A postman's job is to serve his community."
I snorted, then winced. "Like a superhero, eh?"
He laughed. "I suppose so."
We lapsed into awkward silence and I glanced towards him. "They'll be here soon, y'know. . . if you're busy and need to leave. . ."
He shrugged. "You're my last run. I have nothing else to do, so I might as well." His gaze traced my living room, then settled on the countless murals I'd painted on the walls, as well as the splatters of paint that had taken up permanent residence in my carpet. I felt bad that the house wasn't in better shape. A half-finished deer portrait sat, propped against the table, where a jar of cloudy water from my brushes that I'd accidentally left from yesterday was. A crumpled shirt was tossed over the back of the couch, and a salad plate from lunch was left on the coffee table.
He seemed to notice none of that though as he added, "Y'know, I always wondered what your house looks like."
I raised an eyebrow, although I knew he couldn't see it under my hair. "Really?"
He hummed. "When you see the same houses for six or seven years, you do wonder at times. I always imagined that fairies owned this house, since I rarely saw anyone. This cabin has a fairy look around it, with the vines creeping up the log walls and the animals that aren't afraid to come near here and the flowers that always grow so well outside. . ." His voice trailed off. "Not to mention, you live in the middle of a forest."
"Nice paintings." He nodded towards my walls, where the image of a dolphin leaping from the ocean against a rainy sunset was. My other wall looked like a young girl—me, at six—inside a cherry tree, fingering a pink blossom, bathed in white moonlight. Several others that were only partially finished covered the remaining walls. Each scene was vastly different and had their own meanings that only I knew.
The door burst open and the ambulance drivers rushed inside, carrying a stretcher. Each wore face masks. In my cabin of isolation, I'd nearly forgotten those were a thing. I never went anywhere with my garden beside my house.
They took one look at me and winced, although one girl looked close to laughing when she saw the painting around my neck. I didn't blame her, because had our positions been switched, I too would have wanted to laugh.
"I can't move anything," I groaned as they stepped closer. "Everything hurts, and my legs. . ." I looked at them. Memories are odd, because now that I think back, I know that fear clouded my eyes—but that's silly. I couldn't see my own eyes. "I can't feel my legs," I whispered.
Not only was I ugly and half-blind, there was a good chance that I was now crippled, too.
Later, I was bound up in the hospital like a mummy. No one came to visit me, but I supposed that was my own fault. My parents were loving and cared for me, but after the fire incident, I pushed people away, and then never had the guts to fix the bridges I burned.
I went home two days later with a house nurse to help take care of me.
I felt like an old lady on Hospice.
When we arrived, she struggled to wheel me up the steps without bumping me too much, but eventually we made it onto the porch.
"I'll need to fix those if I'm going to be wheeling you up and down those, Missy," she said, then laughed. "Still, it's not as bad as Mrs. Kushner and her twenty-three step stairs."
I winced, because the staircase leading to my room had thirty steps.
The nurse opened the door and pushed me inside before closing it again.
"Woah. Those paintings. . ." She trailed off for a second and then said, "Did you do those?" I was about to nod, but my neck brace kept that from happening. I hummed my reply instead. "Those are fantastic!"
"Thanks," I croaked.
She wheeled me over to the sofa and tossed my crumpled shirt onto the floor. "I'll get that later," she promised. "For now, where's the kitchen?" I gestured towards the small stove in the corner. Since I lived alone, I didn't need a kitchen, and I washed dishes in the bathroom sink. "Oh," she said, in a disappointed tone, but quickly perked back up and said, "I'll cook my famous spaghetti. You'll love it."
"Yay." I said nothing more, then suddenly realized she'd need a bed to sleep on. "Oh, Nurse? I don't have a guest room, but I'll need to sleep on the couch for now, anyway. You can have my room. It's the first door up those stairs." I raised a finger towards the stairs.
The next day, the Mailman came by again at the same time as usual, but he asked to see me.
Macy, my nurse, opened the door for him.
"Is Miss Richards in?"
"She's right here. Come on in!"
I'm sure I looked horrific with my scars and frizzy red hair, my bandages, and neck-brace, but I tried to make myself pretend that I didn't care whether the mildly-cute-mailman saw me like a mess in my hospital gown or not.
He glanced at the nurse. "Do I need a mask?"
She shrugged. "If it's fine with Miss Richards, I won't tell if you don't."
He visibly relaxed then, after I gave my permission.
"How're you feeling?" he asked, then sighed. "That question is loco. You look awful." His lips twitched, but I could see the pity in his eyes.
I snorted. "No duh, Sherlock. But. . . thanks for checking on me." I offered a small, tired smile. We were quiet until I asked, "What's your name?"
"Juan Pablo Hernandez Jackson." He gave a mock bow and chuckled.
"Ah, let me guess. Your Mom wanted a traditional Spanish name, but your Dad was American?" Macy snickered and I winced. "Sorry, is that rude to ask? I don't—I. . ." I sighed. "Sorry, I don't talk to a lot of people."
He shrugged it off. "You're fine, it's not offensive. You're actually correct. My Mamá decided that if I was going to have an American last name, the rest of me was going to be as Spanish as possible. Dad couldn't have cared less, he was just glad to have me."
I laughed and then froze as a stabbing wave of pain gripped my torso. "Ow, ow, ow," I muttered.
Macy hissed behind me. "Sorry, Lizzie. If I could just give you something for the pain—"
"No," I cut her off and hissed. "No pain meds." They reminded me too much of the fire. I hated those memories.
"But they would help you—"
She paused. "Okay, fine."
I sighed and closed my eyes. "I'm. . . sorry, it's just. . . I have some bad memories attached to them."
"That's fine. I won't force you to do anything you don't want to do."
I saw Juan shift and frowned. "Don't let me keep you here. If you need to go—"
He shook his head. "I'm good. I don't have anything to hurry back to."
I forced a smile through the pain in my ribs. "Thank you. You don't have a family?"
The question seemed fine in my brain, but once I spoke it, I realized it might be taken the wrong way.
"No, actually. I, uh, was engaged, but. . . Let's just say things didn't work out well"—He shrugged with his palms upwards and tilted his head to the side as if he didn't care, but I could tell by the look in his eyes that it was an act. "She moved on, but I'm fine alone. Ya know."
I blinked. "Oh. . . I'm sorry. . ."
He bobbed a shoulder. "I'm over it."
We lapsed into silence for a while until Juan broke it. "I, uh, should probably head out. It's getting late."
Habit told me to nod. Pain and a brace made me say, "Okay. Bye." I was quiet for a bit as he walked towards the door behind me. Just as I heard his hand rest on the knob, I said, "Thanks for visiting me."
He paused, then, "You're welcome." He was gone.
The next day, Macy and I sat at the table over a cup of coffee. Mine was black, just like I liked it—and still do.
"What is your family like?" I asked her, blowing my cup.
She sat her own down and thought for a moment. "Well, I have two older brothers. One is a doctor, and the other, a poet."
"A poet? How did you and your other brother get into the medical field?"
"Well, when I was young, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She died." She paused here, and I offered my condolences. "It's fine, I didn't know her well. . . Anyway, Henry wanted to find the cure for cancer—He wanted to save the lives of others. And, I suppose, to make Mom proud. We were close, and I followed in his footsteps as a nurse."
I raised my eyebrows at her. "That's. . . a very touching story."
Laughing, she replied, "Thanks," and cleared her throat. "So what about you? Where's your family?"
Unbidden, a gust of wind escaped my lips. "My. . . My nephew was just a baby when their house caught fire. Everyone escaped—except for him. I stayed late that night when it happened because of a date-gone-wrong, and. . . I ran back inside to get him. He was so, so small, wrapped in smoke and flames, Macy—I couldn't leave him in his crib." I paused to collect myself, afraid that if I continued, my voice would crack. "I grabbed him, and we escaped, but my face. . ." I paused and brushed my hair behind my ear, allowing her to see the full damage. "My face was destroyed and I have no sight at all in this eye." I gestured towards the one on the side of the burn. "And the baby died. The smoke and fire were too much for him."
"That's horrible!" she gasped and her hand flew to her lips. "Oh, Lizzie, I'm so sorry."
I wanted to shrug, but my back interfered.
Over the next several weeks, Juan stopped by at the end of his shifts. We talked about small things in the beginning, but somewhere towards the middle, our conversations grew longer and deeper. We were talking about favorite memories, our childhoods, the trouble we'd gotten in and out of, and more. It had been a very long time since I'd had these kinds of conversations, and I found myself enjoying them.
Now that I look back on these memories, I should have known then and there that I was falling for him. But I was blissfully unaware of that for at least another month when he suddenly stopped coming around.
The next morning, he knocked on the door. Not the evening, like he normally did, but the morning. It was his usual business-like knock, and it was rapid and quick.
I smiled to myself as Macy went to get the door.
That was when I knew that I was beginning to like him—a lot.
Macy opened the door and Juan came inside.
"I'm sorry I haven't been by recently," he said, his eyes downcast. "Something. . . came up."
I smiled at him. "Forget about it. Macy made cookies—want one? You can tell me all about it then."
He hesitated and then nodded. "Sure, I'd love one."
I rolled myself towards the table where the platter of chocolate chip cookies sat, undercooked and gooey, just how I liked them. They reminded me of my Mom's.
"What's new?" I asked.
He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "My. . . My ex. Her new boyfriend broke up with her, so she had the nerve—" He cut himself off and cleared his throat. "She contacted me a few days ago, begging forgiveness and wanting to get back together." I opened my mouth to reply, but he added, "And the thing is, I loved her—I wouldn't have proposed if I didn't. But she left before, she probably will again, and that's not exactly the best foundation for a relationship, you know?"
I nodded, my lips grim. "I'm so sorry, Juan. Just remember, your worth doesn't rely on a woman, or on whether or not you're in a relationship. It's perfectly fine being single, too."
He nodded and snatched another cookie. "These are pretty good, Macy! My sister needs your recipe."
I chuckled, because he'd told me before that his sister liked to bake, but she tended to use the worst recipes.
She grinned. "Thank you!"
Those were the early days of our relationship, Reader. They were sweet and fun, but they had a bit of their own trials, as well. Juan had a few doubts about himself as a result of his ex cheating on him, and although I tried to tell him differently, I knew that he would never accept that until he himself decided it. As for me, I was a bit insecure. I liked my face when I was younger, and I'd worried so long that it would deter future relationships that it now messed with me.
It wasn't until two months later that we officially began dating, and two years later, we were married. By then, I was healed.
I suppose I have to end my story somewhere, so I'll try to hurry.
Juan helped me fix the bridge with my family. I had my parents back, and I hadn't realized how much I'd missed that—how much I'd needed it.
I guess that's it. There isn't much to tell that would be considered an exact Hallmark movie or anything. We were two imperfect people, but together, our broken fragments made a whole, and that's what mattered.
Note: This is not my life story, just a character's.